Buy Used
£2.30
FREE Delivery on orders over £10.
Condition: Used: Good
Comment: This book is in nice condition, clean with no missing pages and minimal markings. The pages may be slightly dog eared but overall in great shape. It is fulfilled by Amazon which means it is eligible for Amazon Prime and Super Saver Shipping.
Have one to sell?
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

The Darwin Wars: The Scientific Battle for the Soul of Man Paperback – 7 Feb 2000

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

See all formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price
New from Used from
Paperback
"Please retry"
£57.01 £0.01
click to open popover

Special Offers and Product Promotions

Enter your mobile number below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone

To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.




Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books; New edition edition (7 Feb. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684851458
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684851457
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 943,511 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

Freelance journalist Andrew Brown's book the Darwin Wars takes a critical look at the resurgence of Darwinian explanations over the last 30 years, the content of which he describes as "a particularly potent brew of good science, striking metaphors, and bad philosophy, and consequently savage and important discussions".

The contending parties are reasonably and usefully described as "Gouldians" and "Dawkinsians" with the former group comprising Stephen Jay Gould, Stephen Rose, Richard Lewontin, Mary Midgely, David Hull and others while the latter group includes Richard Dawkins, John Maynard Smith, Daniel Dennett, Helena Cronin, Matt Ridley and other names one could add. For Brown what is ultimately in dispute is not evolution or Darwinism as such, but "the scope and proper limits of Darwinian explanations". The really divisive and decisive question to which there can be no definite answer-- is not "Where does design come from?" but rather, "Where does it stop?"

The great practical value of this book is that it is written by someone who describes the polemical skullduggery of the contending personalities as an extremely interesting tale in itself--without doing any mud-slinging himself. Brown does not trivialise, insult, misrepresent or misunderstand the ideas of the people he is talking about and, as a consequence, the ideas and their historical emergence become clearer.

This is as clear and even handed an overview of the contemporary Darwin wars you could hope to read. Read alongside Jonathon Miller's Introducing Darwin and Evolution the interested layman will come to understand the general debate at a fairly sophisticated level. Reading and digesting these books makes it easier to read and evaluate books on biology. Promise! --Larry Brown

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
5 star
3
4 star
0
3 star
1
2 star
0
1 star
0
See all 4 customer reviews
Share your thoughts with other customers

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Andrew Brown uses sparklingly clear prose to illuminate the arguments between scientists working on neo or post Darwinian theories (dealing with evolution and the development of life). His language gives stunning clarity to a debate shrouded in metaphor and allusion. He takes Dawkins' 'selfish gene' [are organisms simply survival robots for selfish genes?] and explains (better, I suspect than Dawkins could) what this means and its implications. He looks at memes [the genes of ideas] and so much more. The book is generous in its description of scientists and broad in the territory it covers. Most importantly it does not dally on one point to long; it runs along plucking gems. For those inspired (like me) there is much more digging to do. In 40 years of reading this is one of the most perfect books I have read; both in the way it was written and the subject it illuminated.
1 Comment 16 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback
Sometimes in a fight, to stand by can lead one to be taken to endorse what might be seen as a favoured participant. This can happen here since no one should suppose that religion has the monopoly on fundamentalism. This book is about the way in which evolution has been construed and its means; it also focusses on the often acrimonious disputes between Richard Dawkins ("in the right corner") and Stephen Jay Gould ("in the left corner"). I have found that scientists find it difficult not to take sides, balance TENDS to be found among philosophers. Dawkins emerges as a brilliant, flawed figure; his nemesis Gould as no less compromised. The truth of evolutionary biology is not in dispute and this gallery of various intellects, Janet Morgan (no relation), Mary Midgeley, John Maynard Smith, Pinker, Price, Dennett, Lerwontin is a fascinating and instructive group all of whom have something worthwhile to contribute. This is a fair-minded account; despite what at least one reviewer writes, this is no anti Dawkins tirade, though anyone looking at his speech on religion will recognise him as no stranger to hyperbole! Darwinism itself remains, of course, unscathed. The book's only fault is the omission of the great Steve 'Snail' Jones and the next edition should have a chapter on his evisceration of Steven Pinker in the New York Review of Books a few years back. Best contretemps of all, IMO..
2 Comments One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback
A journalist writing on science embarks on a perilous journey. Preparation requires knowledge of the path, the likely hazards, and how to avoid awkward detours. When the trail passes through a disputed area, every risk is multiplied. In this instance, the dispute is interpreting how Darwin's idea of natural selection works. Andrew Brown makes a valiant effort to learn the route, chart the perils and keep to the centre. Even his vivid writing skills can't prevent him failing on nearly every count. Granted, the best informed writers have stumbled on the same trek. Brown, however, misses the whole point of the dispute.
His Foreward states that "Darwinian explanations" about the world have led to acrimonious scientific debate. The remainder of the book tries to outline those debates and their participants. The tragic story of George Price, a transplanted American who died in London in 1974, demonstrates the issue. Price had reformulated William Hamilton's earlier work on altruism. Nature, it seemed, offered little reward for altruism. The knowledge sent Price first into insanity, then suicide. The Hamilton/Price work brought Richard Dawkins to develop his idea of "the selfish gene." Brown struggles to comprehend Dawkins' idea that strings of molecules "desire" only to replicate. He turns to Dawkins' appearance and antecedents to relieve his confusion. He scorns Dawkins use of metaphor, labelling him "vulgar", then fills
this book with his own. Dawkins becomes the label for thinkers in one side of Brown's Darwin Wars - the "Dawkinsians." Although admitting its weakness, Brown retains the identification throughout.
The Dawkinsians are countered by the allies of Stephen J. Gould - "the pope of paleontology." Brown is clearly in awe of Gould's writing ability and reputation for accuracy.
Read more ›
3 Comments 7 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback
Brilliant little book in danger of getting lost amid all the anniversary flummery; not that I mean to belittle it - I've got a good few tempting volumes on my shelves waiting for me to get round to them: Before Darwin, Doubting Darwin, Darwin's Cathedral, Darwin's Worms, The Robot's Rebellion (subtitled Finding meaning in the Age of you-know-who) - but you could hardly have a better starting point than this - fun and challenging both. Darwin still controversial? You bet!
(I may pass on Darwin's Dogs, though...)
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x90a5c178) out of 5 stars 2 reviews
HASH(0x90a5d72c) out of 5 stars There is considerable effort by many good people to ameliorate the disparity between faith and science 20 April 2016
By C. M. Stahl - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have avoided this book for many years as I judged a book by its cover. Having wearied of this shrill debate between atheists and creationists that seems eternal, I wanted to hear nothing more of the subject. Those arguments while having the flair of Kabuki at times are quite pointless. Neither creationists nor atheists shed their beliefs due some grand rhetoric by their opponents. This book, especially with its title reference to “Soul” turned me off. The book came to my attention while reading another one about altruism and its roots. In the former there is much about the mad polymath George Price. My own excursion into understanding this odd character led me to the first book which provided much insight but no empathy for Price. Neither did Brown’s. Price provided some very interesting insights into the nature of altruistic actions by animals that are not human and to those who are. I am left unconvinced that Price himself was an altruist in fact the opposite. Likewise the inference made by Brown that Price was “driven mad” by his results using game theory and kin closeness to derive his theories failed on me. It appears from my reading that Price was a narcissist who was spiraling into his own suicide for reasons other than the work he was doing. An argument that his work itself reflected a disordered mind seems much more satisfactory to me. In both books, Price’s efforts were a focal point to bring the reader to the conclusions that the author desired.

That being said my copy of the book I did not want to read, came to me in a used version of the paperback. Perhaps it has been revised over the years. Much of what I read is dated but reasonably accurate at its publication. Much has happened since it was written to give much more credence or to gainsay many of Brown’s points. That is not a criticism as it is as temporal as any aspect of history.

This book was avoided by me for fear that it was going to inform the reader, that religious beliefs and science can learn from each other. There is considerable effort by many good people to ameliorate the disparity between faith and science. At this stage in history they have become tedious. As Stephen Gould suggested they are two different magisterium. Listening to one broadsiding another, works to dull ones senses. So I stopped listening.

Brown uses the many disputes amongst scientists regarding the details of evolution, selection and adaptations to build the real case that he wants to make. More on that in a bit. He uses as a baseline, E.O Wilson’s 1975 book Sociobiology which gives a lot of suggestion to phenotype being nearly all a result of our genes. Nearly simultaneously Richard Dawkins published The Selfish Gene, a title he may secretly rue. Both books caused a storm in the scientific world and the social one as well.

In 1975 the world was experiencing hegemony failures such as America’s Viet Nam war, student protests and the carbuncles of creationism. To suggest that genes solely (neither author did such) are responsible for all of our actions referenced a non-radical understanding of predetermination. We have no free will certain readers of either of these books would suggest they were indicating. The New York Review of Books became a prime source for reading the disputes between the scientists of that day. Often they were vitriolic but mostly they were aggressive and at least pointed.

Disputes amongst evolutionary scientists the largest number of them atheists, were harsh and seemingly intractable, colleagues became enemies over details within an umbrella theory that they all used for their work every day. None of them questioned the veracity of the theory of evolution but all questioned how it was understood. They did so in not very pleasant ways. While reading the book I accessed many of the NYRB letters to refresh and add to my own memory. Brown was right in that animus ruled the day.

I think all of that was the cake. The last two chapters were Brown’s frosting. It was all a prelude to what he really wanted to present to the reader. By showing that scientists would have such confrontational attitudes towards peers over relatively minor distinctions in a theory they shared, they sort of laid the groundwork for the real enemies of scientific progress.

The aggrievement between scientific non-theists and believers of any sort was boiling even 20 years ago. The confrontational ones on the side of science and not divine authority were arming themselves for the war that would visit them from their opponents who likewise suited up for battle. I followed those battles closely for a good long while. I took (and continue to take) the scientific view. But it has become at minimum, a pyrrhic victory, one that may even be a loss when on the surface not so.

The author claims (as I do) an atheism but not an intolerant one that cannot abide by the beliefs of others. Much evidence has shown the importance religion has in regards adaptive behavior. Religions themselves have shown to be detriments to a cultural calm as well. We certainly are witnessing that every morning when we turn on the radio. I used to jokingly say that “religion gives god a bad name” but that always confused the listener as to what I really meant so I stopped. Brown sort of says the same thing.

Science is guided by proofs and continuity. It answers less to what is fact but to what is probable. It has it’s over the top zealots who exemplify that which is despised. James Watson the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA is one of the paragons of science and he feels that genetic manipulation to make us smarter or faster or whatever else is what ought to happen. Most find this abhorrent. He is an extremist who has publicized his notions of a genetic hierarchy of races.

Religionists have a moral authority that many like myself cannot abide with in terms of an ethical guide for my own life but it is clear that it works for many. Authority is not fact, it simply rules. There is no need to provide examples of moral authority gone amok but I will provide some examples anyway. There is the Taliban and other military missions killing as many as possible and there are the anti-abortionist killers in our country as well as far right groups who shoot at Jews going into the temple.

All most all of us live civilly because we understand social mores regardless of our belief systems. Evolution has adapted us to climb down out of trees and to communicate with each other. We developed symbols and then writing and music and many other arts. Eventually we created histories and philosophies that we could share. We created culture many millennia ago. Religion has played a major part in our cultural development. At this stage in history it is no longer mandatory. It does seem that (despite my lengthy and personal interpretation above) that Brown was saying much of the same.

The reader of this might imagine me sweating and frothing at this point but I have calmed and want to end this by saying that Brown wrote a book with many ideas to agree with or not but he did it eloquently. He has a way with words and makes his points much like a novelist by choosing the right phrasing.

It is now an old book with probably few people interested in picking it up though I will say that I have seen it on shelves of many bookstores today as I browse for potential reads. I always passed by it for its cover but bought it on line, cover unseen. When it arrived in the mail my thoughts were something like “Holy cow, the book referenced above was one I was never going to read.”
HASH(0x90953930) out of 5 stars Philosophical Warfare on the Subject of Evolution 17 Nov. 2015
By Elizabeth A. Root - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Amazon lists two books with the same main title, author, and cover, which is, I presume, the same work with different subtitles; one is “The Scientific Battle for the Soul of Man” and the other is “How Stupid Genes Became Selfish Gods.” Anthony Brown reflects on various aspects of the social, philosophical, and scientific aspects of various writings about evolution. He discusses the “Gouldians” and the “Dawkinsians”, acknowledging that the groups are not hard and fast, but reflect real divisions in science. The reader who wants more of a consideration of the science might wish to read Dawkins versus Gould: the Survival of the fittest. Brown does not consider the two to differ significantly on science, however much one side (mainly the Gouldians) may argue that there is one. The book is very interesting and has a lot of food for thought for people interested in the subject. He slices and dices some of my favorite science writers, which is always salutary.

The work is bookended with the story of George Price, a theoretical biologist who refined the equations describing altruism, which proved not to be pure enough for his tastes. This seems to have so distressed him that it was perhaps part of a radical change in his lifestyle: he became a Christian and began to give all that he had to the less fortunate, while continuing with his scientific work. He ended up committing suicide. All of which makes me glad that I am not of a philosophical turn of mind. I do wish, however, that Brown had explained this equation in more detail; I couldn't follow the math, but he also says that the equation showed that “our capacity for cruelty, treachery and selfishness [are] impossible to eradicate.” Quite a lot for a fairly short formula.

Brown discusses the Gouldians mainly from the philosophical/social aspects and discusses the Dawkinsians from both that and the scientific side a little more. This is more a dissection of Dawkins' sometimes unfortunate metaphors and dramatic statements that he ends up retracting or modifying. He describes us, via a vis our “selfish genes” as being “lumbering robots” created by them, and after being accused of genetic determinism, tries to explain that he isn't referring to the highly determined and predictable robots that were being manufactured at that time, but more of science fiction robots.

One idea of Dawkins's which Brown particularly loathes is that of memes. I thought he strained a bit to discredit it, particularly since the discussion is cheek-by-jowl with section on the effects of habits on evolution, and the chapter on religion is entitled “And the Meme Raths Outgrabe.” Brown says that he is an atheist who has written for years on religion, and I suspect that he doesn't like thinking of religion as a meme, and in the minds of Dawkins and company, an undesirable one. I am dissatisfied with his chapter on religion. I recommend reading Jerry A. Coyne's Faith versus Fact, especially his chapter "What's Incompatible?" For example, Coyne points out that the Catholic acceptance of the theory of evolution is only partial. One must still basically accept the Adam-and-Eve story of original sin. One must also accept that God intervened in evolution to ensoul human beings. And since the liberal Protestants are so hurt at rarely being mentioned in discussions of science and religion (Coyne discusses this), I point at that they accepted evolution first.

I agree completely that Nicholas Humphrey's idea of taking children away from parents who want to give them a religious upbringing is tyrannous, I would add that in most of the world it is madness. As someone who was given religious training, I question Brown's dismissal of Humphrey's argument that one is told simply to believe, not given reasons. This is a particular pet peeve of mine. While religious seminaries, academies, and universities may have lengthy debates on theology, how much of this ever trickles down to the laity? Some writers such as Bishop Spong and Karen Armstrong admit that very little does, but hope to delight the laity by enlightening them sometime. I think that clergy with actual congregations are a little more chary. When I was a child, and wanted an explanation of theFatherSonandHolyGhost that forms the trinity, none of my Sunday School teachers could, and the youth minister wouldn't, explain. (He was so fond of answering a question with a question that I developed a great sympathy for the Athenians who executed Socrates.) I am of course a very tiny sample of one, but I keep seeing surveys that claim that the average Christian cannot name the four gospels, or has little knowledge of theology, so perhaps my experience isn't unusual.

I have one comment for the book designer, or perhaps this was Brown's decision. He quotes long sections of text without having them set out into paragraphs, which I think is somewhat confusing. I sometimes lost track of the quote marks and thought that I was reading his thoughts, not someone else's that he was quoting.

Despite having some cavils, I recommend the book to people with an interest in all the aspects of evolution.
Were these reviews helpful? Let us know


Feedback